Gimmick shows and movies have been fairly popular recently. Many of them are great concepts but lack the content to really work. This one doesn't.

I'll try not to go into great detail on the plot except in how it works into the overall plot of the show, since Walter has already outlined it for us. And as he said, this episode is not an aside from the plot of the show as a whole; rather, it is part of it, and in fact a very important part.

Through music, this episode deals with issues that would have been very awkward for the characters and possibly tedious for the audience if addressed in plain dialogue. The first singing comes from Buffy, and it is about how she just hasn't felt a part of the world since Willow brought her back from the dead. Of course the audience knew that already, but to hear her admitting it (with several vamps and demons as backup) is a new thing.

While Tara's solo is really just a love song, however moving, it does not bring up any difficult issues. Xander and Anya, however, are forced to confess through song the worries they've been having over their future, which they were afraid to say before for fear of scaring the other away. After the song, they run to Giles with renewed concern for whether all this singing is truly safe. (Anya seems just as upset about the fact that their song was old-fashioned as she is about its lyrics.) Giles tells them about the man who tap-danced himself into spontaneous human combustion, confirming the danger, as three sweepers dance behind them.

When Buffy goes to Spike to see if he has any idea what's happening, he bursts into a rock song (which a friend of mine says made her totally want to "jump on him") telling her to leave him alone if she can't love him back, but when she leaves at the end, he is disappointed. Then, during her training session, Giles begins to sing about why he has to leave town again. The audience knew he would, because the actor couldn't be in Los Angeles all the time for filming, but there had been no suggestion thus far as to why. He sings that he wishes he could be a father to Buffy, but she needs to be independant and he is only getting in the way of that. Then he joins Tara, who has discovered that Willow cast a spell to make her forget a fight they had, for a duet.

Meanwhile, Dawn has been captured by the demon responsible for the singing because she is wearing his amulet (which she stole from the magic shop), so he thinks she is the one who summoned him. When he finds out she is the slayer's sister, he sends a minion to fetch Buffy. Spike leaves her in anger, and Giles, trying to foster that independence, tells everyone else to let her handle it alone. But before long they all go to help after all. Buffy offers herself in Dawn's place if she can't defeat the demon, then begins to sing. Giles ends Tara and Anya as backup.

Within the song, Buffy tells everyone that, while she was dead, she was not in some terrible Hell dimension as they thought, but in Heaven. She had told Spike before and hoped never to tell the others because she knew they meant well in bringing her back. This part alone would have been the most difficult thing to do in a straight dialogue episode, but in the musical, all we need is to see the look of horror on Willow's face to understand.

After this revelation, Buffy begins to dance, frantically, and she is just beginning to smoke when Spike grabs her and sings that the best thing she can do is go on living. The demon accepts his defeat and leaves, and both Spike and Buffy slip out during the group's final number. And as that number says, "the curtain falls on a kiss."

Of course not everything is resolved, because this is only one episode, and in fact there are new issues and questions to deal with. Giles still has to tell Buffy he is leaving. Will Spike and Buffy get involved? And will Willow curtail her excessive and often irresponsible use of magic?

I'd also like to say a little about the actors and their performance in this new format.

Anthony Stewart Head: Great singer. This was revealed on the show in an earlier episode, when he sang The Who at a coffeehouse. I'd also seen him on VH1's Rocky Horror Picture Show karaoke special. He got up in spike heeled boots and embroidered hose and sang the worst song in the entire movie (Planet Schmanet Janet) but still managed to impress me.

Sarah Michelle Gellar: I get the impression she doesn't sing much, certainly not professionally, but she can carry a tune and was able to learn. It's like when Cindy Crawford had to learn to sing for a cologne commercial: a new experience but not entirely bad.

Alyson Hannigan: Can't sing, and she was given very few lines by herself (one of which was "I think this line is mainly filler").

Nicholas Brendon: Can't sing either, but he was willing to try, and he made it through his duet without any disasters. Decent dancer too.

Emma Caulfield: When either this show stops running or she is no longer on it, I'll be looking for her on Broadway. Her solo about bunnies during "I've Got a Theory" was especially impressive.

Amber Benson: She was also on the RHPS karaoke special. I'm glad she got to do a duet with Giles. She is a light but strong soprano, probably not very heavily trained but with natural talent.

Michelle Trachtenberg: She would be able to sing if she would open her throat more. Great dancer; clearly has some ballet experience.

James Marsters: He's in a rock band. Need I say more?